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Expert opinion

What to do when your card is not working

Monday 27 August 2018 | 08:33 AM CET

One simple mobile app will ease the headache of lost, stolen or simply misbehaving credit cards. Gary Singh, VP Ondot Systems explains how.

Recent outages by both Visa and Mastercard resulted in a Twitter storm of outrage. Happily it was soon announced that the problem was an internal “system failure” rather than a malicious hack – but how anxious did you feel before that reassuring announcement?

What a difference it would make if you could immediately check your latest transactions as they happen: to check for yourself that there was nothing suspicious. Even better if you could there and then block your card yourself, until sure that the situation has been resolved.

This is actually possible. Millions of card holders around the world have a smartphone or computer app that gives them the power to be in control.

More useful than you might think

Big outages are rare, but the ability to control your own card has many much more everyday uses. Consider this all-too common drama: “Anyone seen my handbag?” or “I’ve come out without my wallet.” It happens so often, and nearly always the card turn! But we can’t take it for granted – because every card issuer insists that lost cards must be reported immediately.

There is a simple answer to this dilemma, and it is catching on in other countries worldwide under a range of names. Basically it consists of a mobile app that gives the holder immediate control of their card.

The key word here is “immediate”. Instead of having to phone the card company – who will block your card and issue a new one – all you do is open the app and block the card yourself. As soon as you find it again, you unblock it. This means that you get immediate protection from fraud, without the hassle of trying the bank’s helpline, and avoiding the embarrassment of discovering a card in your pocket that can now no longer be used.

Managing your own card

Millions of card holders worldwide are already managing their own cards – so why have many people not heard about it? Probably because card management is sold as a ‘white label’ product that can be branded by the bank or card company and customised to match their system. It appears in different places under different names, such as “Card Valet”, “Total Control” or “Card Rules”. Whatever name the bank gives it, the app has been designed to allow the card owner to personalise the card in the way it can be used. And all these changes can be made, and un-made, in real time on a smartphone or other connected device.

How might you personalise your own card? Let’s say you have just used your card to buy something from a slightly suspicious website, and you worry that your card data might be stolen. You can block the card then and there, so no-one else can use it. Card thieves often move fast before the card can be blocked, but the app will immediately notify you if and how the card is being used.

Take this a stage further. Maybe the card is one that you only use for buying food: then you could personalise the card for food purchases only. You could limit it so it can only be used at certain shops or restaurants, or in a specific locality. You could set your own spending limit and so on. But what happens if you have to use the same card for some exceptional non-food purchase? With the app you simply allow that one transaction, make the purchase, and then reset the card as it was – on the spot.

This makes the card far more secure. Banks use artificial intelligence to model customers’ spending habits and try to detect if a card is suddenly being used in a different way. But no-one knows their own spending habits better than the card owner. When the app notifies the owner that the card has just been abused, the response will be immediate – without having to wait for a call centre to respond. Early research on the introduction of card management showed a 40% reduction in fraud and a 16% drop in wrongly refused payments – what’s more, banks saved the cost of printing and sending replacement cards.

Extra security is one reason that banks like card management. They also know that when they add this service, the card holder is more likely to favour their card – the same research showed a general 23% increase in usage, and that previously inactive cards were being used again. Especially welcome for overloaded call centres was a 26% reduction in support calls.

The way to go

Something else is happening with the move to card management. People are rethinking how they use their cards, and coming up with new ideas. Parents are confidently handing out family cards when they can tailor the card to what their children need. If off to university, that card might be restricted to purchases around the campus, and certain book stores. A youngster’s first card could have a low spending limit – and blocked from buying cigarettes. Businesses can issue company cards with appropriate restrictions: cutting out employee fraud – a story recently covered in the national press for example: the driver can only buy fuel and snacks, at certain petrol stations – and so on.

The same system could eventually support, for example, being able to hand out a pre-loaded gift card. This would be more and more flexible than a store token and more personal than just handing over cash. The giver could set a spending limit and maybe dedicate it to specific purchases, like a slap-up meal in any restaurant – with a personalised “Happy Birthday” notification popping up when it is used. The only limitation lies in the imagination of the users, and the card issuers.

Don’t risk a card you cannot control

Shouldn’t everyone be able to control your own card? Card management is catching on fast and is increasingly being offered by banks worldwide. What is perhaps more surprising is that this solution is not universally available across Europe. Only in the UK banks are already providing card management.

So choose carefully when applying for a card, don’t just look at what it offers in financial terms, and also ask if the card comes with the security and flexibility of you being able to manage the card yourself.

It’s your money, control should be in your own hands.

About Gary Singh

Gary Singh is the Vice President of Marketing at Ondot Systems. Prior to Ondot, Gary served as Vice President of Sales at Zebra Technologies, where he led go-to-market activities for new and innovative product categories. Gary has a long history of developing solutions for the mobile and wireless markets, and brings over 20 years of executive-level experience in both public and venture-backed companies.

About Ondot Systems

Ondot Systems is a financial technology company that puts personalized control of credit and debit cards in the hands of the consumers to prevent fraud and decide when, where and how their cards are used.

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